‘Mortal Kombat’ film entertains with excessive action but struggles narratively

Noah Levine

“Get over here!” … and watch “Mortal Kombat” return to the big screen.

“Mortal Kombat” is the latest attempt at adapting the popular video game series into a live-action feature film. The new installment, now available on HBO Max and in theaters, follows MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) as he is introduced to Earth’s greatest champions after enemies from “The Outworld” begin to attack Earth. On his journey, Young comes across many iconic characters from the “Mortal Kombat” series, including Kano (Josh Lawson), Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee).

While many would expect the narrative of this adaptation to be about the Mortal Kombat tournament itself, the film actually focuses on the buildup to the legendary event. Cole, along with his newfound companions, are tasked with recruiting all the fighters on Earth who have a special dragon mark. To prevent them from competing in the tournament, vicious enemies from the Outworld dimension have begun to hunt down these fighters on Earth.

Lawson’s Kano is a standout, offering wonderfully comedic quips. His nonchalant attitude toward the bizarre world of the film offers a refreshing contrast to some of the more ultra-serious characters. McNamee’s Sonya Blade is a great addition to the main cast, delivering some witty one-liners and killer action sequences. Tan’s Cole Young provides an outsider perspective, exploring the world of the Earth Realm along with the audience, but his relationship with his wife and child feels like an afterthought. The film wants audiences to have sympathy for them, but they aren’t afforded enough screen time to exist as compelling characters.

“Mortal Kombat” is famous for its boundary-pushing gore, and luckily the new film follows suit. Heads are smashed and souls are sucked in the video game’s classic exaggerated style. Notable moments include Kano ripping out a pulsating heart and Jax’s arms being ripped off in stylistic set pieces that feel as if they’ve jumped right out of the beloved combat games. The first and third acts of the narrative feature bucketloads of blood and action, but the middle of the film drags a bit in terms of that excessive “Mortal Kombat” violence.

The most frustrating part of “Mortal Kombat” is how much time is spent laying the groundwork for a sequel. The final battle of the film feels like a precursor to events that may come in a future film, but with no confirmed sequels, the narrative feels cut short and nixed of its full potential. It would’ve been rewarding to watch Cole Young finally putting his newfound abilities to use in the legendary Mortal Kombat tournament.

The film lacks polished editing, and its special effects cheapen the overall aesthetic. While the majority of the characters look lifted straight from the games, some of the costume design looks awkward and oversized on top of the actors sporting them. These wonky visual moments often break the immersion of the film and feel more akin to a fan-made adaptation rather than a fully funded studio blockbuster.

While “Mortal Kombat” features effective action sequences and character moments, the overall narrative and presentation leaves much more to be desired.

2.5 Get Over Here’s out of 5